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Jan 5, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Little Children

It's been almost five years now, but for his follow-up to Punch Drunk Love, director Paul Thomas Anderson has outdone himself with Little Children, a sprawling, ensemble film about the inhabitants of a Boston suburb during one particularly hot summer.

What's that?

Oh...that's right. Little Children isn't a "PTA" film at all; it was directed by Todd Field, (former) actor, and writer/director of the Academy Award-nominated In the Bedroom. Well, you could have fooled me. Based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta (and co-written by Perrotta and Field), Little Children sure feels like a PTA film, perhaps minus some of Anderson's trademarks (pop-filled soundtrack, a Phillip Seymour Hoffman sighting, etc.).

The focus starts with three main characters (Kate Winslet's Sarah, Jackie Earle Haley's (The Bad News Bears) Ronnie, and Patrick Wilson's Brad) and spokes out from there. Sarah is a stay-at-home mom stuck in a fruitless marriage to a man she barely seems to know, living in a house that feels like someone else's. Part of her daily ritual entails going to the neighborhood park with her daughter. In time, she meets another stay-at-home parent, Brad, a would-be lawyer who can't seem to pass the bar, who takes his son to the park.

Through a bit of serendipity, the two spark a friendship that in time turns into something more that will dramatically affect their entire lives. All the while, the big fuss in the neighborhood is over one of the newest residents - Haley's Ronnie, a newly released sex offender. In time, he will "touch" upon the lives of many in the neighborhood, with varying results.

With little flash and excellent pacing, Field has made an excellent, haunting (yet suprisingly funny at times) film. Winslet, Haley and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show) all stand out with their raw, nuanced performances. My only nit to pick is that the narration disappears for the middle third of the movie.

88 out of 100

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